The Cathedral Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, commonly known as Portsmouth Cathedral, is the cathedral of the Diocese of Portsmouth, England and is located in the heart of Old Portsmouth.

DSC07994

 

Around the year 1180, Jean de Gisors, a wealthy Norman merchant and Lord of the Manor of Titchfield, gave land in his new town of Portsmouth to the Augustinian canons of Southwick Priory so that they could build a chapel “to the Glorious Honour of the Martyr Thomas of Canterbury, one time Archbishop, on (my) land which is called Sudewede, the island of Portsea”.

It was given so that they could build a chapel dedicated to the honour of St Thomas of Canterbury, who was assassinated and martyred ten years earlier. This chapel was to become, in turn, a parish church in the 14th century and then a cathedral in the 20th century.

DSC08003

The medieval building, dedicated in 1188, was cruciform in shape, with a central tower, which was used as a lookout point and lighthouse, over the crossing. Of the original building, only the chancel and the transepts remain. The church survived a French raid in 1337 which had laid waste most of Portsmouth during the Hundred Years War. However in 1449, the Bishop of Chichester was murdered by local sailors. The town’s inhabitants were excommunicated and the church was closed. In 1591, Elizabeth I worshipped in St Thomas’s Church. During the English Civil War, when the Parliamentary forces attacked the town in 1642, the Royalist garrison used the church tower to observe the movement of enemy forces. Parliamentary gunners positioned in Gosport fired on the tower and inflicted damage to the church. This resulted in the ruin of the medieval tower and nave. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 came the authorisation by Charles II for a collection in churches across the country to raise the £9,000 required to rebuild the tower and nave, which took place from 1683 to 1693. The nave was built in the classical style. Galleries were added in 1708 to cater for growing congregations, and were extended in 1750. The wooden cupola with a lantern for shipping was added to the top of the tower in 1703. A ring of eight bells was given at the same time. Two additional bells were cast in 1957 and currently the central tower contains a total of 12 bells. All of the bells were cast at Taylor’s Bell Foundry and are hung in the wooden octagonal part of the tower. Various repairs and alterations were made during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1902, the church was closed for two years so that much-needed work on the foundations could be carried out. During this period, St Mary’s Colewort, a chapel of ease, served as the temporary parish church.

DSC07997

The establishment of the Diocese of Portsmouth, which had split from the Diocese of Winchester in 1927 brought about significant changes. On 1 May of that year, the parish church of St Thomas of Canterbury became the pro-cathedral of the new diocese, becoming the second cathedral in Portsmouth, as the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Evangelist had already opened in 1882. At a chapter meeting in October 1932, a first sketch plan for an extension to the church was submitted by Sir Charles Nicholson. He was called upon to extend the church to a size that would dignify its cathedral status; by 1935 the ‘provisional’ nature of its title had been dropped.

The nave, looking south-westwards

The style that Nicholson chose is that of a round-arched ‘Byzantine’ style that echoed the ‘classical’ style of the late seventeenth century quire. By 1939 the outer quire aisles, the tower, the transepts and three bays of the nave had been completed. The base of the seventeenth century tower had been opened up to form the tower arch. However, with the Fall of France in June 1940 during World War II, work on the extension scheme stopped and the bays of the nave were blocked off with a ‘temporary’ brick wall. This wall remained there for over fifty years. During the Second World War, the Cathedral suffered minor damage to the windows and the roof. Sir Charles Nicholson died in 1949 and attempts headed by Field Marshal Montgomery to finish the structure in the 1960s proved unsuccessful due to substantive failure to find sufficient funds. However, as the building had been used for many years without its extension, it was quite usable and there was no urgency to finish the work.

DSC07995

By the mid 1980s, however, the “temporary” brick wall was found to have become unstable and in danger of collapse, which made the completion work pressing. The task of the architects was to find a solution to the problem of finishing Nicholson’s truncated nave: the nave was originally intended to be longer, in the traditional style of an English cathedral, but the changing needs of the diocese meant that the building was finally built with a foreshortened nave, the final west wall being located close to where the temporary structure had been. Efforts were started to raise the £3 million necessary to carry out the plans. Work began in January 1990 and eventually a fourth bay of the nave, western towers, tower rooms, rose window, gallery, ambulatory, together with the stone altar beneath Nicholson’s tester and the new stone font were added. In November 1991, the completed building, much smaller than the original plans envisaged, was consecrated in the presence of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

DSC08000

 

The formal entrance into the Cathedral is through the bronze west doors, designed by Professor Bryan Kneale. The design is based on the tree of life, an ancient symbol representing the renewal of life. The completed nave is a square space that is enclosed by an outer ambulatory. The ambulatory is low and vaulted. Because the furniture in the nave is not fixed, it can be used for various means, including concerts and exhibitions as well as services. On the rood screen, beneath the Nave Organ case is a sculpture called Christus, by Peter Eugene Ball. The Nave Organ case was designed by Didier Grassin in 2001; the inside of the panels were designed by Patrick Caulfield. The left side depicts night, with a stylised lighthouse shining on the sea (which alludes to the City of Portsmouth’s motto, “Heaven’s Light Our Guide”). The right door depicts day, showing the sun and the hull of a fishing boat. The tower is pierced to provide an organ loft raised on a low dark passage. The font (1991), made to a Greek design of the ninth century, is placed centrally between the nave and the quire. In the south tower transept is the bronze status of St John the Baptist by David Wynne. It was cast in 1951 as a memorial to a Winchester College pupil killed on the Matterhorn.

DSC08001

Photographs taken by James Woodward march 2014

 

DSC08188

Painted in August 1953.

It is one of the series of paintings known as ‘Beaten Pastes’ (Pâtes battues) executed between March and December 1953 of which Dubuffet has written:

‘These paintings are done with a smooth light coloured (almost white) paste, fairly thick, spread unevenly and rapidly with a plasterer’s knife over layers already thickly painted and still fresh, in such a way that the various colours underneath show where the paste is missing, as well as tint the paste here and there. Then rudimentary figures, hastily traced with a round knife cutting into the paste, play over the surface like graffiti, the variously coloured strokes corresponding to the generally dark colours of the previously painted layers. I derived a curiously keen satisfaction from these designs cut into the paste (this white paste, ordinary pigment so finely ground as to resemble butter, gives them a lively subtle character). I am not sure whether this was due to the delicately shaded colorations they made visible, or to the way they seem to record the hasty character of the hand’s movements (to me very eloquent). Then finally with a large brush I once more applied (but this time over all the layers) a few colours which blended and blurred all the rest. I am at a loss to explain just what it was in these paintings that gave me – that still gives me – such a keen satisfaction. It has probably something to do with the physical pleasure derived from spreading freely, with a large spatula as broad as one’s hand, this beautiful white paste, dazzling and consistent, over a ground previously covered with dark colours, and then letting the long knife with rounded end wander over the smooth paste, tracing with such perfect ease graffiti of sonorous colours. It is the same pleasure that guides the hand of anyone who traces a very hasty design or a word in the fresh plaster of a wall or the freshly smoothed cement of a floor. The hasty uncontrolled character of the resulting design in my picture affords me acute pleasure. I get a feeling of satisfaction from the rough and rudimentary character that this hasty drawing gives to the objects I wish to evoke – the lines intentionally drawn to indicate the presence of some object are often indistinguishable from those that result from the rapid application of the paste and its “misses”, so that the enveloping indefiniteness bathes the whole picture in a kind of ambiguity. Indeed far from keeping me from successfully evoking the subject I set out to represent, this ambiguity actually helps more in this respect than if the objects were clearly defined. It would seem that my obsession for representing things only in a rudimentary and uncertain manner forces the imagination of the person looking at the painting to function more vigorously than it would if the objects were more precisely represented, to such a degree that everything appears to his imagination, thus violently stimulated, with unaccustomed intensity

DSC08190

DSC08191

DSC08400

Windsor Great Park welcomes over two and a half million people every year.

DSC08401 DSC08402

Windsor Great Park, the only Royal Park managed by The Crown Estate, was once part of a vast Norman hunting forest which was enclosed in the late 13th century. The 2,020 hectares (5,000 acres) of parkland, which includes a Deer Park, is a varied landscape of formal avenues, gardens, woodland and open grassland. The antiquity of the landscape is enhanced by the scattering of great ancient oaks for which the Great Park and its forest are renowned.

DSC08403DSC08413

Situated in the south-east corner of the Great Park this much visited area provides rich and varied scenery. Virginia Water lake and its surrounding Georgian landscape of woodland, glades and forest rides is the centrepiece within which two internationally famous gardens – the Savill and Valley Gardens – were created in the twentieth century.

DSC08411DSC08412

DSC08421

 

When we read when we read the Gospel accounts of the resurrection we note how varied  these experiences were.  There is always a mystery, a greater depth,  new things to uncover about the transformation possible because of  Easter.  If we delve beneath the surface of these Easter encounters, we do not find human strength and resolve ,and certainly no blasts of the trumpet or an elaborate liturgies. Instead we find fragility: people who are often at their lowest point, whose whole world has collapsed. In the case of the disciples it is because they believed Jesus to have disappeared for ever. And for us we always come to an Easter celebration  with pressing questions that we want to put to God’s today .  These questions may not be answered immediately or in the way that we want or expect – but Easter is not about putting a heavenly lid on this earthly experience : it is about interpreting earthly experience  in the light of  Christ.  So it is vital that we bring those questions and trying not to hide behind them amidst all the confidence and triumphalism Easter.

DSC08424

This holding together of life and death , light and darkness , sorrow and joy is one of the reasons why  this piece of work  given to me by my friend Nigel Dwyer  is so important . in his workshop he  produced  an image of the resurrection  in the  symbolic  clarity  and likeness of that  glass egg  but surrounds it  with a crown of thorns . it is all placed on a copper base which  refracts the light  and holds  the reality of that Crown in place . It is almost as if the clear brightness of the light  in the egg  bursts out of  the  dangerous  sharpness  of the  points  on that crown of thorns .

DSC08423

So let  us bring  OUR  questions , our Fears,  are vulnerabilities into  the Easter narrative . we are offered freedom to accept  and live  God is risen life  of encounter,  renewal and  forgiveness . This piece of art reminds me that  Christ  encounters us all  in our fragility  and in our love  today  and every day .

 

 

DSC08414

Jesus final words finished. His life is finished. His ministry is finished. The scriptures are finished. The reconciliation of God and creation is finished.

DSC08415

This is good news – everything is lost except the heart of God laid bare. We might just get close enough to glimpse that sacred heart laid bare.

And we might just get to read what is written on that heart, pierced and finished for the love of us. The love of you, love for you, each one of you and every part of your experience.

DSC08417

Here on the Cross is love, and in our beholding we glimpse life.

Fresh_green_leaves_JK163_350A[1]

 

fresh life

 

and then my heart

pulled itself apart

and, filled to the brim

with a new light,

overflowed with fresh life.

 

now even the heavens

are thankful that

because of love

i have become

the giver of light

 

Rumi

watchful_eye-t3[1]

watchful

 

If you value yourself

watch that self, carefully;

the wise should be watchful.

 

Self must govern self.

Who else would do this work?

If the self is well controlled

you have found a good master.

 

It is your self that does wrong

it is your self that suffers

it is your self that purifies;

no-one can do it for you.

 

the Buddha

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 623 other followers